By Julia Kurnia, Director
One of the most inspiring things about the Zidisha community is that volunteers are at the center of our operations. Volunteers undertake an incredible range of tasks: loan payment processing, borrower application review, email and SMS support in four languages, accounting reporting, sharing entrepreneur stories in social media, and more. It is no exaggeration to say that without the generosity of volunteers, Zidisha would not be possible.
Our volunteer team is a collection of extraordinary people, who work from their own locations all around the world. We have profiled a number of them in this blog. Today, I’d like to highlight the contributions of our volunteer Operations Coordinator, Alejandra (“Ale”).
Ale joined us in August of this year, and it’s already hard to imagine Zidisha without her. I’m inspired every day by the immense impact she has on the world and the joyful, giving way in which she lives.
As Operations Coordinator, Ale is responsible for welcoming and orienting new volunteers, organizing the volunteers into teams, and ensuring that everyone has the resources and information they need to participate successfully. She has transformed the volunteer experience at Zidisha, by setting up a Slack room for our communications, and introducing fresh ideas like video introductions of new volunteers and group birthday cards.
As if that weren’t enough, Ale has taken on the additional project of bring Zidisha loans to her home country of Mexico. Thanks to her, we are almost ready to begin disbursing the first loans there. If our lending program grows in Mexico the way it has in other countries, her hard work will make it possible in time for thousands of people to access life-changing loan opportunities.
I managed to persuade Ale to take enough time off from her many activities to provide an interview, reproduced below. It’s a rare chance to get to know one of the remarkable people at the heart of our community.
How did you hear about Zidisha?
I read about Zidisha in Y Combinator, they provide seed funding for startups, and they started applying their model to non-profits. Zidisha blew my mind by putting together the power of the internet with no interest loans.
With Zidisha I realized that lending money with no interest rates instead of giving handouts dignifies people.
What sort of activities have you done since you started volunteering with us?
My responsibility is that operations run smoothly and in order to do this I have been involved in activities ranging from helping our volunteer accountants with monthly accounting reconciliations to distributing duties among all volunteers. I have been responding to borrower emails, disbursing loans, entering repayments, reviewing new borrower applications, translating, helping volunteers through email by answering their questions and providing orientation to join a particular team. My work is motivated by helping our entrepreneurs.
The day I joined Zidisha I was curious to meet the amazing volunteers, I was also lucky to join the Ghana Payment team and quickly started disbursing hundreds of loans to entrepreneurs. One of my favorite tasks is talking to volunteers and thinking of ways to improve our daily work. We come up with proposals to spend our time more efficiently helping entrepreneurs.
Do you have a favorite Zidisha entrepreneur story?
My favorite story is the first loan that Zidisha ever gave, when I tell people about it I can see tears in their eyes. We disbursed our first loan to a Masai nomad in Kenya who wanted to buy cattle, he was a day away from a bank but had mobile phone with M-PESA, a money transfer service Zidisha used to send him the money.
To tell you the truth I easily fall in love with all our entrepreneurs. I enjoy reading all the stories, special from women. I can vividly remember they day I joined Zidisha as a lender, I remember choosing Rosine Sanogo from Bobo-Dioulasso, Burkina Faso. She was born in a polygamous family with more than 10 children, she’s single with three children. I gave her money for her second loan, she sells shoes door to door her daily profit is $20 USD. Rosine’s customers enjoy buying shoes without leaving home.
What do you like to do in your free time?
I enjoy walking in the forest, I dive at least once a year, my favorite activity related to nature and the ocean is swimming with whale sharks in Holbox, Mexico.
I love volunteering for different organizations. In the winter time I work with my church to bring Christmas dinners to unprivileged communities. The rest of the year I’m involved in catholic retreats for prison inmates.